John A. Short's Review of 'Octobriana: The Exotic Time Domina
Wait decades for an Octobriana book to come along… Then two arrive, almost, at once! Hot on the heels of my own 'Octobriana: The Underground History' comes Finnish comic creators' 'Octobriana: The Exotic Time Domina'! (Don't worry, this collection is in English, folks!)
If you're not familiar with Octobriana, I should explain that she is a public domain comics character who first appeared in a book in 1971. The book claimed that she was from anti-establishment comic strips created behind the Iron Curtain in the 1960s… The truth is more complex… For the whole story see my book (buy it... Just click on the button to the right there...)
This is a collection of strips about the Russian Devil-Woman, mostly written by Reima Makinen and illustrated by different artists. Under a handsome colour cover (by the Reima himself) we have five different black and white stories in total.
Firstly we have reprints of Reima's two rare, out-of-print Octo strips from the early nineties… 'Mission in the North' (with artist Petri Tolppanen) and 'The Tenth Circle of Hell' (with artist Timo Niemi.)
It is 'The Tenth Circle of Hell' that is the backbone of this book, since it runs to 37 pages and is by far the longest strip in the collection. The story sees the Spirit of the October Revolution flying her time travelling Wonder Machine to Hell to take on everyone from Cerberus, Pluto (the God not the dog), Medusa, the Devil and her own evil sister (Decabriana!) This spoof of Dante's 'Divine Comedy' has some great humour and cracking action all in artist Niemi's macabre woodcut-style.
'Mission in the North' is a 6-pager that takes Octo, the Wonder Machine and her Native American braves to the oil-fields of Russia for a more serious adventure. Tolppanen's art is simple, but his storytelling is very easy on the eye and there are a couple of lovely perspective shots (especially the opening splash-picture.)
Reima himself illustrates two of the new strips. 'Origin' is a 1-page story that translates the creation myth of Octobriana (only spoken about in text form in the original 1971 book) into pictures for the first time. 'Wasted Time' is a 2-pager in which Octobriana goes babysitting (I kid you not!) To give away the ending of this strip, would be to rob you of the pleasure of discovering it yourself. A smile spread easily across my face as I realised where it was going. Probably my favourite story of the collection. Reima's art reminds me of classic book illustrators.
'From Cuba with Love' is the other new strip. This 9-page story is written by Vesa Vitikainen and illustrated by Sauli Jokinen and takes the communist heroine to Havana for a crazy, off-the-wall-style adventure. Jokinen's art is easy on the eye with a fine mix of American superhero-style with a humorous edge. This strip has lovely energy to it.
Along with the strips themselves are features on the background of the cult, public domain, underground, communist comix character as well articles on the strips themselves and development sketches. No serious underground comix fiend should be without this book.
OCTOBRIANA: THE EXOTIC TIME DOMINA
ISBN 978-952-663009-0 Buy is from:
http://www.sarjakuvakauppa.fi/octobriana.html ... Or look for the link down and to the right...